Gender Studies

The Dangers of Little Girls Playing Big Girl Games

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I will never, ever forget that day. I was 10 or 11, wearing a knee length black skirt with ruffles and a pretty white shirt. I had white tights with little squiggles on it, cute black shoes with bows on them, and my Mom had helped me with my hair, which was gathered at the nape with my favourite black bow. I felt so pretty – until someone that I barely knew said that I was cute, but that I should pull my skirt up because it made me look like a nun.

Thankfully, my parents, awesome as they are, had taught me how to deal with such people. I didn’t pull my skirt up, simply thanked the lady for her suggestion and walked off. The fact that the ruffles on my skirt made a satisfying swishing noise as I turned around is the cherry on top of this memory.

This was one of the defining moments in my life that make me so aware of the plight of young girls, who, today more than ever, are being encouraged to be ‘sexy’ rather than ‘pretty’. And so what I received, courtesy of my friend Ciamh, an opinion piece on CNN about the sexualisation of young girls, I immediately started reading it, despite the ridiculously tall stack of files I had to deal with.

(If my boss is reading this: I went through the entire pile, I promise!)

LZ Granderson starts his piece with the following:

I saw someone at the airport the other day who really caught my eye. Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie “10” (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her “Xtina” phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes. You can tell she had been vacationing somewhere warm, because you could see her deep tan around her midriff thanks to the halter top and the tight sweatpants that rested just a little low on her waist. The icing on the cake? The word “Juicy” was written on her backside. Yeah, that 8-year-old girl was something to see all right. … I hope her parents are proud. Their daughter was the sexiest girl in the terminal, and she’s not even in middle school yet.

It was a little shocking but let’s face it: he makes an excellent point. Little girls are dressed like women aware and in control of their sex-appeal. And while I agree that mature women should be allowed to dress as they want without the fear of being raped, fact is that allowing or even encouraging young girls to get that attention doesn’t allow them to develop an identity based on the fact that they are noble, human beings.

It’s a really difficult debate. I do believe that people are allowed to do what they want as long as their personal choices don’t infringe on the rights of others. I also believe that parenting should not put forth the right of the parent to do what they want with their child; parents’ right to raise their child as they want is tempered by the rights of the child itself. But the rights of the child itself are goverened by the definition society gives to life.

And so, if life is about making the most of the 80, 90 years you have on earth, it stands to reason that your parenting choices are going to be different from a conception of life as a small part of an eternal spiritual journey towards God.

So what should we do? Do I have the right to cover up these little girls in an attempt to protect their innocence? No, not at all. But I don’t think that I have the right to sit back and not say anything at all. And so, I will continue trying to clarify my thoughts and trying to share them in various forums, and, if the opportunity presents itself to me, I will reflect with parents on what they are doing to their child. Because the debate LZ Granderson has is one that many people are having, but that, owing to societal pressure, they can’t always see to the end.

And so I’ll leave you with another snippet for his CNN piece, in the hopes that it will also impel you to think about this very important topic, be you a parent or not. Because it’s by respectfully sharing our point of view that we will come to a solution which will put the well-being of all children at the forefront. And what society doesn’t hold the well-being of its youngest and most vulnerable at heart?

I guess I’ve been out-of-the-loop and didn’t realize there’s been an ongoing stampede of 10-year-old girls driving to the mall with their tiny fists full of cash demanding sexier apparel.

What’s that you say? Ten-year-olds can’t drive? They don’t have money, either? Well, how else are they getting ahold of these push-up bras and whore-friendly panties?

Their parents?

Noooo, couldn’t be.

What adult who wants a daughter to grow up with high self-esteem would even consider purchasing such items? What parent is looking at their sweet, little girl thinking, “She would be perfect if she just had a little bit more up top.”

And then I remember the little girl at the airport. And the girls we’ve all seen at the mall. And the kiddie beauty pageants.

And then I realize as creepy as it is to think a store like Abercrombie is offering something like the “Ashley”, the fact remains that sex only sells because people are buying it. No successful retailer would consider introducing an item like a padded bikini top for kindergartners if they didn’t think people would buy it.

If they didn’t think parents would buy it, which raises the question: What in the hell is wrong with us?

It’s easy to blast companies for introducing the sexy wear, but our ire really should be directed at the parents who think low rise jeans for a second grader is cute. They are the ones who are spending the money to fuel this budding trend. They are the ones who are suppose to decide what’s appropriate for their young children to wear, not executives looking to brew up controversy or turn a profit.

I get it, Rihanna’s really popular. But that’s a pretty weak reason for someone to dress their little girl like her.

I don’t care how popular Lil’ Wayne is, my son knows I would break both of his legs long before I would allow him to walk out of the house with his pants falling off his butt. Such a stance doesn’t always makes me popular — and the house does get tense from time to time — but I’m his father, not his friend.

Friends bow to peer pressure. Parents say, “No, and that’s the end of it.”

The way I see it, my son can go to therapy later if my strict rules have scarred him. But I have peace knowing he’ll be able to afford therapy as an adult because I didn’t allow him to wear or do whatever he wanted as a kid.

Maybe I’m a Tiger Dad.

Maybe I should mind my own business.

Or maybe I’m just a concerned parent worried about little girls like the one I saw at the airport.

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